Los Angeles, CA — It’s bad enough to be facing a parade of lawsuits ranging from allegations of stock price affectations to defective products. However, when Anderson Cooper and the venerable 60 Minutes comes knocking at your door, you know you’re not going to have a good day.
Such are the issues facing Lumber Liquidators, a US vendor of Chinese flooring products that are alleged to have not only failed California’s so-called CARB-2 safety standards, plaintiffs also claim levels of formaldehyde in the products exceed safe limits by serious margins.
The issue takes on greater significance given the adoption of the California Air Resource Board Phase 2 (CARB-2) emissions standard for formaldehyde in manufactured products as the US standard several years ago, which finally comes into effect nationwide later this year.
According to the report aired on 60 Minutes, glue used in the production of laminate flooring can sometimes contain formaldehyde. In low levels it’s not considered a problem, especially when the formaldehyde is encased in the product, preventing emissions from escaping into the air.
The problem with Lumber Liquidators Flooring formaldehyde, according to the allegations, is that a greater level of formaldehyde is used in the production of products for Lumber Liquidators, in an effort to keep costs down.
Such a high level of formaldehyde, according to environmental experts interviewed by CBS News for 60 Minutes, can succeed in escaping from the product into the air, making homeowners ill.
That’s the allegation carried in a Lumber Liquidators Defective Flooring Class Action Lawsuit filed by John and Tracie-Linn Tyrrell in federal court in California March 5.
According to the Richmond Times Dispatch (3/5/15), John Tyrrell began experiencing symptoms that include extreme shortness of breath, weakness, fatigue, and incessant coughing and sneezing shortly after he and his son-in-law installed the laminate flooring.
“Despite repeated medical tests, his doctors have not been able to identify the cause of these symptoms,” the lawsuit claims.
The proposed class action seeks to represent any consumer who purchased Chinese flooring products from Lumber Liquidators in the last four years. They seek re-imbursement for the material and installation, as well as unspecified damages.
The lawsuit also seeks to force Lumber Liquidators’s hand by having an injunction granted, preventing the company from selling the allegedly defective products.
“Based on lawsuits, articles and blog posts, [Lumber Liquidators] knew or should have known that its laminate wood flooring products were not compliant with [California emissions] standards,” the lawsuit said.
“Despite this knowledge, defendant failed to reformulate its flooring products so that they are compliant or to disclose to consumers that these products emit unlawful levels of formaldehyde.”
Lumber Liquidators, according to the Dispatch report, is “currently reviewing the allegations contained in this lawsuit,” the company said.
“It appears that many of the claims mimic contentions raised in a separate suit that was filed by a law firm that also represents a short-seller, which looks to benefit from decreases in our stock price, in another action against us. We believe in the safety of our products and intend to defend this suit vigorously.”
Out of 31 samples of Chinese flooring products imported by Lumber Liquidators independently tested by 60 Minutes at two certified testing labs, all but one sample presented with seriously high levels of formaldehyde that exceeded state and pending federal guidelines.
Upon dispatching reporters to the manufacturing facility in China, 60 Minutes was told the facility had the capability of manufacturing to the CARB-2 standard, but switched to cheaper manufacturing methods that utilized higher levels of formaldehyde in the wood glue for products manufactured for Lumber Liquidators.
Officials of the manufacturing facility also admitted to 60 Minutes reporters using a hidden camera that products were improperly labeled as CARB-2 compliant, or so it is alleged.
In a filing, Lumber Liquidators said “we believe that ‘60 Minutes’ used an improper test method in its reporting that is not included in California regulations and does not measure a product according to how it is actually used by consumers. We stand by every single plank of wood and laminate we sell all around the country.”
The case is John Tyrrell et al v. Lumber Liquidators Inc., Case No. 2:2015cv01615, California Central District Court.
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